Sunday, July 24, 2016

Jihadi Janes and Jamillas

Tabish Khair has written a fine new novel about Islamic terror and what draws young girls, especially those living in relative comfort in western nations, to the horrific war in Syria. I reviewed it here (headline not mine):

The question gains urgency after recent terror attacks that were carried out by middle or upper class young professionals who attended good schools and degrees. They are not driven to despair by poverty; their families seem to have no clue about their violent plans.
As for the young girls who have left comfortable homes in liberal societies to join extremist outfits like Daesh, the imagination boggles. With reports of horrific sexual abuse, aside from the risks inherent in a closeted life in states where women are not granted equal rights – why? Who is to blame for all this?
Read the full review here:

Saturday, July 02, 2016

The man who invented poetry

A long review of Afzal Ahmed Syed's urdu poetry, translated into english by Musharraf Ali Farooqi and published in India as the collection 'Rococo and Other Worlds':

Consider the first poem in the collection, ‘Our National Tree.’ It refers to the acacia—known as keekar or babool in Hindustani—and the poet announces peremptorily that it ought to be the national tree of Pakistan. He juxtaposes the humble, thorny plant against the delicacy and fragrance of “white jasmine” and the leisure and plenitude suggested by “ikebana practitioners.” Then, without warning, he tosses in a brutal line:
Botanists do not identify acacia as a tree
because it does not support hanging
The translation is sure to have lost some of the cadence of the original Urdu. Botanists, after all, sound nothing like mere botanists if you call them nabanaat ke maahir. Even so, there is no looking away from the striking imagery and the searing narratives. The trend continues in ‘Whom One Loves,’ where the poet begins gently, urging the reader to rescue the beloved from “a fading city/ on the last boat,” and then goes on to say:
The beloved
must be given the first kiss
a torture cell
in a salt mine

Read the full essay here 
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